A Parade of Pure, Willful Ignorance

Posted on 08. Feb, 2014 by .

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There was a debate a couple of days ago between Bill Nye (The Science Guy), and Ken Ham (of Creation Museum infamy) on evolution Vs. creationism. I didn’t bother watching it, since I thought the whole thing was a bad idea, and would only succeed in lending an air of respectability to creationism that it so does not deserve, but the debate is not really what I want to talk about here. Instead there were some signs written up by a bunch of creationists before the debate began, and I just couldn’t resist the urge to comment on them.

But before I begin, I should make it clear that I don’t normally enjoy pointing out the ignorance of other people, but I have had more discussions with creationists than anyone should ever have to endure, and I know by now that these are not honest questions, and these people are not the least bit interested in honest answers. Instead their goal is to sow doubt in other scientifically illiterate minds like their own, which themselves are locked down tight, and even in the face of a mountain of evidence, are impervious to change. As Ken Ham admitted in the debate, when it comes to the word of god, no amount of evidence could ever change his mind. Such people have excluded themselves from rational discussion, and therefore satire is the only option left. So let’s get started…

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Well Miss Crazy Eyes, if you think the world is amazing, just try to imagine a perfect, infinite and conscious being existing in a void for all time with absolutely nothing at all to do, and nothing to be conscious of, until creating our tiny little world for his vanity and enjoyment.  Perhaps you should wonder about how such an amazing god could exist in the first place, or would that ruin a perfectly good day dream? And if you really want to be awed by the universe, try viewing it without those god colored glasses on, that makes it all appear to be just one grand magic trick. “Oh, god did that.” “He did that too.”, “And that.” “Yeah, that too.” It’s all so very simple, isn’t it? The universe is much more amazing than you give it credit for, and you are missing the show.

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Yes, I’m afraid it is.

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Well first of all the big bang isn’t speculated to have come from an “exploding star”, but rather a singularity, which is spectacularly different, but anyway no one knows what the exact nature of that singularity was, or from what kind of pre-existing reality it emerged. But just because we don’t have all the answers does not mean we can just make them up.Ignorance is not an excuse for stupidity.

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Well, since the “Big Bang” is just another name for all the physical evidence we have ever observed about the nature of our universe I would say of course.  Can you believe in gravity without faith? It is not faith to believe in things which we can observe or that are supported by evidence, it is simply being reasonable. It takes faith for us to believe things, for which we have no objective reason to believe. God for instance. And in this case it’s not just faith but blind faith, so that we can so easily ignore all the things that might otherwise spoil the fun , such as evolution. If faith is a prison, blind faith is that same prison, at the center of the Earth.

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They keep asking, science keeps answering, but they just keep asking anyway. It’s very strange. Oh well here we go again. Sometimes certain types of copy errors can result in gene duplication, some types of genes called Retrotransposons tend to replicate themselves throughout he genome, and finally there are retroviruses which can splice their own DNA right into a host genome. All this new genetic information is then free to undergo mutation. Pretty straightforward really, but when you get all your information from creationist web sites, I can understand missing it.

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And the winner of the contest to cram as much wrong information into the least amount of space possible goes to…older woman with the gray sweater

First of all science is not a theory, it’s a method, and both science and scientific theories (contrary to your little sign),  concern themselves ONLY with things that are testable, observable and repeatable, where intelligent design concerns itself with none of those things, which is exactly why it is not taught in school and evolution is. Getting the definitions of things correct is the first step in creating an accurate world view.

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I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you how a sunset can happen without a god,  if you tell me how disease, deadly viruses,  famine, and natural disasters (just to name a few of the ungodly aspects of the world),  can happen with a perfect, loving god. How about it? And I’m afraid “because Eve spoke to a talking snake”  is not a satisfactory answer. In fact how do you know your god is not an evil god with all that he is complicit in? And perhaps it’s time for pastors to take a moment away from their waste of life, platitudinous sermons and spend some time on the English language, specifically on the differences between the words their, there and they’re. I see this from Christians way too much for it just to be a coincidence.

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Have you heard of an oxymoron? If not you’ve captured it perfectly nevertheless.  If there was such a thing as objective meaning everyone would agree about what it was. The obvious reality is that everyone creates their own meaning, which is why meaning is subjective, the opposite of objective. Meaning is what we make it though,  whether it is in helping the human race transcend it’s limitations and progress into the future via new knowledge and science, or numbing ourselves to the reality of the world around us and withdrawing into a comforting haze of myth and superstition. Where do you derive your meaning?

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Look at that smile! Almost like he knows the question is ridiculous and has been answered a million times, before, but he’s showing the sign anyway just to muddy the water. Nah, couldn’t be. Anyway, the answer is simple. The common ancestor of chimps and humans, indeed, no longer exists. Both chimps and humans have evolved separately from this common ancestor because of reproductive isolation, where some members of a species get isolated from the rest and so begin diverging from each others. Human ancestors found themselves in a much different environment, (like Savannah instead of jungle) and evolved quite a bit, while chimp ancestors remained in the same environment, and therefore remain physically, very much the same.  But feel free to ask that question again. And again, and again …

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No, but I am scared of people who create divine creators, so they can pretend to know things they couldn’t possibly know. Does that count?

Now this particular parade of ignorance comes to an end, but the real life version winds around the corner, out of town, and across the globe.

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Christian Response to Atheist Billboards

Posted on 11. Dec, 2013 by .

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As some of you probably know, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has been putting up billboards in Sacramento recently, in an attempt to let the tiny atheist population know that they are not alone during the holidays, and to perhaps encourage others to make the very difficult decision of coming tri-daleout of the closet to their family and friends, and very likely facing rejection and ridicule as a result. Well this article isn’t about the billboards themselves, although I would like to encourage you to look at them all here,  instead it is about the all too typical reaction they are getting from the Christian community.

These reactions range from the hysterical, to the threatening, to the rather benign with the majority being somewhere around righteously indignant, and I believe we can learn more about why we need less religion in the US from these messages, than we can from the billboards themselves, so here is a representative sample, all taken from this article on what looks to be a popular Christian news site called The Blaze.

Let me get this straight, you atheists don’t want religion forced on you but its ok to ram your godless theology on everyone? Hypocrites? I think so.

Or if we read between the lines, “Why don’t you just continue to keep your mouths shut, so Christianity can continue to dominate your world?” No thanks. out-katie-cookiesAnd who but a Christian would consider a few billboards coercion  even remotely equivalent to teaching Sunday school to innocent children, a tax free church on every corner, thousands of religious radio and television programs, and a lock on elected officials. Hypocrite? Certainly one of us is.

“Vengeance is mine sayeth The Lord.” We will be held accountable for every idle word we speak or post on billboards. May God have mercy on this nation.

Ah the good old dogma that held progress in chains for so long during the middle ages. Say anything at all that opposes Christianity and burn in hell forever, I guess we should just be thankful that they can no longer burn us alive first. Can’t you feel the love?

Why is it these pigs only see it fit to attack Christians and Jesus based religions? They dont have billboards condemning Allah or Budda, their agenda is clear, they must be eliminated.

Of course atheists speak about all religions, but this is the US and Christianity is dominant here. There are also atheists all over the tri-chrisworld fighting for their rights as well, such as these atheists in Bangladesh, facing 14 years in prison for daring to insult Islam. And don’t fool yourself, Christianity would be doing the same if left to it’s own desires. I think these messages make that clear enough.

“Just in the abstract, it kind of bothers me when I see vehement, proselytizing atheists throwing around their devotion to science and reason, then stating with absolute certainty that they know there is no supreme being, when it’s impossible to reach that conclusion based on science or reason.”

And then there are the ones who don’t even understand what atheist means, because they believe lies told to them in church, which is the only place you will ever see this “absolute certainty” definition of atheist. The fact is that there are very few self identified atheists who would claim absolute certainty that god does not exist,  instead most simply claim that the evidence available, does not support the presumption that he does. A huge difference to say the least.

I happen to live in Sacramento……… and I plan on defacing as many of these signs as I happen to come across………….. So, locals be on the lookout for my “art”……..

And if you think this is isolated just search Google for defacing of atheist billboard and just look at the images. It is so common as to be almost guaranteed,  where Christian billboards, for the most part, go unmolested.

Well I guess that’s enough, but you can go and read them yourself at the link above. Everything from the Devil is coming to get us, to the end days must be right out-tiffanyaround the corner. Now imagine how disconnected from reality someone has to be to go this crazy over a few public billboards in a single US city. What they are really saying is how dare anyone have the right to say anything we don’t like, anywhere, anytime no matter how small, and if you do, you must be crushed. This is what religion is all about folks, and you can sugar coat it all you want, but there will always be that bitter core of irrational intolerance, anti-intellectualism,  authoritarianism, and hypocrisy that pretty much defines the US at the moment, and the only way to to get less of that, and more reason and understanding, is to stand up and declare yourself free from such nonsense, and this is really all these billboards are trying to enable people to do.

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Congressman: Global Warming Nothing to Worry About. God Said so.

Posted on 18. Nov, 2013 by .

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In case there is anyone who still thinks blind faith is just an innocuous little foible, here is Rep. John Shimkus, another republican proclaiming that he knows global warming is nothing to worry about because the Bible tells him so, and he is just one of many of our elected officials that believe such things. To  add insult to injury, he is currently seeking to head the house Energy Committee.  It would be funny if it were not so tragic. And don’t miss the line from the Bible: “even though, every inclination of his heart is evil since childhood”, speaking of all of human kind. What must beliefs like this do to a person.


And here’s a member of the  house science committee explaining why evolution, the big bang, and embryology!? are all lies from the pit of hell. Priceless.

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The Regressive Left and Its Twisted Little Love Affair With Islam

Posted on 18. Nov, 2013 by .

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As a self identified liberal myself, it is hard to watch the hypocrisy and delusion of so many on the left when it comes to Islam. They have no problem trashing Christianity for its intolerance, its authoritarianism, the credulity of Its adherents, and  its negative effects on progress and culture, but let someone point out any of these things about Islam, and all of a sudden the name calling comes fast and furious; Racist! Bigot! Islamophobe! It’s really pretty extraordinary to watch, but liberals are not immune to self delusion, even if they don’t celebrate it as virtue as so many on the right seem to do these days.

left and islamSo where does this peculiar delusion come from? Here are three possibilities.

1.  Many on the left, especially in Europe, have been steeped in the blind faith of multiculturalism ever since World War II, and fear being seen as intolerant more than almost anything else.

This doctrine, designed to eliminate the kind of intolerance that led to the holocaust, states that no one has any right to criticize another culture, regardless of how much it conflicts with their own. Done to make sure another Hitler did not rise up, no one seems to have seen the irony, that it was exactly this attitude of appeasement (tolerance), that was applied to Hitler’s Germany, that allowed it to grow as dangerous as it did. The real lesson of Nazi Germany should have been that applying a live and let live philosophy to any power that despises, and would like to destroy such philosophies, is the surest way to make sure they get their way. Islam is one such entity, and Europe is currently beginning to understand this sad fact. Islam cares nothing for multiculturalism, or western values, and instead demands that the infidels bend to its superior moral authority, and sadly Europe doesn’t even blink, and seems all too happy to comply, terrified more of being called an intolerant bigot, than of losing all the hard won intellectual progress of western civilization.  Amazing.

2. Another reason far left liberals tend to support Islam is that so many have a deep anger and shame of western imperialism, and they see it still at work in the middle east today, (especially in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict), and it is deeply satisfying in such minds, to blame all of the problems in the Muslim world on the west, and not dilute such pure, righteous rage, by admitting that Islam might have at least something to do with its own failures.  The fact that Christianity has held back the west, especially before the enlightenment — which is where Islam is now — does not seem to be a hard concept for them, but to think that this might be the case for Islam as well, doesn’t seem to ignite even a single neuron.

3. And finally, the Christian right trashes Islam every day, and the far left simply can’t bring itself to agree with them on anything, even when they happen to be right for a change (albeit for all the wrong reasons). Christians simply see Islam as a competing religion, and don’t comprehend that Christianity is much the same at it’s core, and there is no doubt that some of their criticism therefore might fall under the “bigot” label, and if the left constrained such accusations only for these instances, it would be one thing, but they have conflated all criticism of Islam under the same banner, and in doing so have turned their backs on free speech, and liberalism itself.

So let’s get this straight. Islam is not a race, it is an ideology, and in fact it’s an ideology that wears it’s intentions right in it’s name. Islam =  submission, and this is what it demands from the minds of it’s adherents. This should be enough for any self respecting liberal to denounce it at every opportunity, but it doesn’t stop there. It is probably the most authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic, utterly dogmatic, anti-intellectual and illiberal institution left on the planet, and the fact that some liberals will none the less defend it so vigorously, is a testament to just how out of touch it is possible to be. (Short of believing 72 virgins await you in heaven, that is)

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Reasonable People are Least Trusted Minority Group in America.

Posted on 13. Aug, 2013 by .

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What does it mean to reason, and what does it mean to be a reasonable person?  These are questions now left to the fringe of American society. A society that has moved on from such quaint notions, into a space where anything is reasonable if you say it loud enough and long enough, and reason is nothing more than an annoying noise some people make in an attempt to spoil the party.

American politics is the most obvious  example of this, but the disease is much more widespread, and really goes to the heart of the American psyche itself. A recent study from the University of Minnesota might just hold the key to why this is the case.

In this study, respondents were asked to rate each minority group in a list which included homosexuals, Hispanics, conservative Christians, Muslims, atheists, recent immigrants, and Jews, on how much each group agreed with their own “vision of American society” (Almost completely, mostly, somewhat or not at all), and how they would feel if their child married a member of each group. (Approve, disapprove, or makes no difference).

The results were interesting to say the least. In the first question, a majority 39% of people,  said atheists did “not at all” agree with their vision of America, beating Muslims and homosexuals by 13 and 16 points respectively. But  the second question was even more striking, with a majority 47% of people, saying they would disapprove of their child marrying an atheist, much more than Muslims  with 33%, and African Americans, with 27%. And this poll was done after 911.

So why all the hate for atheists? Well of course most of it is due to the calculated doctrine of the Christian Church that says belief in Jesus is the most important aspect of  being a Christian, and that anything that might take you away from such a divine virtue must be evil, and must be avoided at all cost.  Atheists are often portrayed in the same breath as  the snake in genesis, or even Satan himself, trying to tempt unsuspecting sheep from the righteous path that leads to everlasting salvation. Just one of many doctrines in the church, designed to capture a mind and never let it go. “Don’t associate with those who don’t believe as you do”, is a very effective prescription to isolate people from any ideas that might cause them to question their beliefs.

Ok, so atheists are portrayed by the church as a threat to Christian belief, and of course we are, but what is it about atheists specifically that makes us even more dangerous than say, Muslims? After all Muslims could be said to be a threat to the Christian paradise just as atheists are. And here is where it gets interesting. Even Christianity recognizes Islam for what it is, which is nothing but another dogma, another faith, another holy book. Sure they are antagonistic, but when it comes right down to it, neither is much of a threat to the other. People who will believe one dogma, are as likely to believe another, and conversion between the two is likely to be a wash.

Atheists however, are a different breed entirely. Unlike Christians and Muslims we don’t have a holy book or any dogma  to sell. We don’t become atheists because it is the path of least resistance or to fit in socially. We don’t become atheists because we were promised an afterlife of candy canes and ice cream if we submit, or because we were threatened with fiery torture if we don’t. And we certainly don’t become atheists because life becomes too much to bear, and so we “let Jesus take the wheel”, and relieve ourselves of the onerous burden of taking personal responsibility for our actions, or thinking for ourselves.

No, a typical atheist usually has only one reason for becoming an atheist and it is a reason that may surprise you. That reason is love. A love of  humanity; a love of truth;  and above all, a love of reason, for reason has proven itself as the best way of finding truth and solving problems, and therefore the best way to ensure a better future for ourselves and our planet. In short atheists dismiss religion for exactly the same reason, anyone who could be called reasonable, would dismiss any  extraordinary claim presented to them without evidence.

Yet who do we elect to public office, and who do we despise with irrational vigor? How can we wonder why we have no leaders who care about truth and honesty, when these values are so clearly on the bottom of our own list of virtues? Reason is the only thing that has ever shown itself capable of improving the human condition, and as long as we continue to reject it in favor of myth and superstition, and those who will tell us anything we want to hear, we have no right to expect a better future. Wake up or continue the slide into the muddy pool of confusion and contradiction that is blind faith. There are only two options.

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Evidence for Evolution

Posted on 29. Jun, 2013 by .

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217In a recent gallop poll, 46% of Americans reject evolution entirely in favor of creationism, 32% believe in evolution guided by god, and only 16% believe in evolution  without any assistance whatsoever. These numbers are much worse than almost every other modern democracy on the planet, with only Turkey being more evophobic than we are.

So as a public service, here is a short list of ten of the most compelling points of evidence for evolution that I could think of. There is a mountain of other evidence, but these ten should be sufficient to keep a creationist busy for a lifetime, trying to explain them away. And if you are a creationist, just ask yourself why none of these objective observations make any sense at all if all life was created together. And then consider just how perfectly they are explained if indeed evolution is true. There really is no way for a reasonable person to deny evolution any longer. To deny it now can only be seen as an act of willful ignorance similar to denying a spherical Earth. You are not going to win this one. Grow up and let’s move on.

1. Fossil record: In all cases fossils are found in strata consistent with their placement in a phylogenetic tree. Simple organisms predominate in older rock, and complexity grows as rocks get newer.  For instance we find the great apes only in the very newest rocks. Makes perfect sense if evolution is true, makes no sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

2. Pseudo genes: These are genes that are still present in many animals, for characteristics they no longer exhibit, but which were present in their ancestors. The genes for teeth in birds is one example. In fact in some cases just by applying a certain protein in the area of the developing beak, a bird will grow teeth. Again makes perfect sense if evolution is true, makes no sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

3. Vestigial behaviors, organs and limbs: Some snakes still have pelvis bones floating in tissue from the time they had legs. Similarly many Whales still have non functional leg bones. Birds with wings that no longer function. Blind fish with eyes that no longer function, or are closed over, because they live in caves. In humans do you ever wonder what goose bumps are for? In apes they raise the hairs on the body for insulation or to look larger when scared. Humans still get them but they no longer serve a purpose since we have lost the hair. The list simply goes on and on. Again makes perfect sense if evolution is true, makes no sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

4. Atavisms: These are like vestigial limbs, but rather than appearing in all animals of a species they are rare occurrences that manifest the entire lost limb or organ in a certain animal. For instance whales have been found with fully developed legs just as they would have appeared in it’s ancestors. This happens when pseudo genes still present in a species are reenabled by means of a mutation. Again, makes perfect sense if evolution is true, makes no sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

5. Geographic distribution: Certain animals are found on islands that are found no where else. But in all cases these animals are found to be closely related to animals living on nearby mainland. In addition, only animals that could conceivably get to the island via drifting at sea or sailing on the wind are ever found there. No large mammals for instance. In addition different closely related species are always found in close proximity to each other. Again makes perfect sense if evolution is true, makes no sense in terms of  Creationism/ID.

6. Fetal development: The general progression of fetal development through evolutionary stages from fish to reptile to mammalian, all the way to tails and hair like our closest relative, that are lost just before birth. Evolution can’t build a new organism from scratch, it must build on what was there before, and fetal development is a record of all the body plans that evolution had to go through over hundreds of millions of years before it ever got to modern humans. Again makes perfect sense if evolution is true, makes no sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

7. Endogenous retroviruses  :  Retroviruses  have the ability to insert their own DNA right into a host cell’s DNA sequence. The resulting, new DNA, is called an endogenous retrovirus or ERV. If this occurs in reproductive cells, the ERV will be passed down from generation to generation, and since the insertion point is random,  if two individuals share even one identical ERV, even if they are of different species, it is extremely strong evidence that they had a common ancestor. Humans share at least 7 of these ERVs with chimps. Game over. This makes zero sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

8. The missing Chromosome: Humans have 23 pairs of Chromosomes, but all other great apes have 24 pairs, Where did the extra Chromosome go if we were descended from a common ancestor? Well as predicted, even before we could sequence DNA, it turns out one of our Chromosomes is an almost perfect copy of two chimp chromosomes, merged into one. Well beyond any reasonable doubt, we share a common ancestor  with chimps. Makes zero sense in terms of Creationism/ID.

9. 99.9% extinction rate: It is estimated that over 99.9% of all species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. We know this because most of the fossils we dig up are of species that no longer exist. This is what we would expect to see if evolution were true, since most species will change over time into other species. How does this make any sense at all in terms of a perfect creation, unless this perfect creation was evolution itself? But that’s another article.

10. Mitochondrial DNA: Mitochondria are organelles contained within our cells that generate energy for the rest of the cell. These organelles look very much like bacteria, and in fact contain their very own DNA, separate and unique from the DNA in the nucleus of our cells. Strong evidence that at some point  two bacteria entered into a symbiotic relationship, which enabled the  evolution of multi-cellular life. Like all the rest of this list, it makes perfect sense if evolution is true, and makes no sense at all if creationism/ID is true.

It remains ironic, that those who deny most vehemently, our connection with other primates, resemble them so closely in their inability to comprehend and accept the mountain of evidence that so definitively confirms that reality. Such is the ability of blind faith to short circuit our reason and make us little more than receptacles for dogma.

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Morality

Posted on 29. May, 2013 by .

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A short response I made in a forum on Amazon on the book “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris. It sums up my feelings about most moral philosophers pretty well, and since a full length post on morality is eluding me, I am going to cheat and post this instead..

[A reader wrote]

“All this demonstrates is that science can teach us that pouring cholera in water can harm/kill people, but it does not explain why it is immoral to do so”

[Another reader responded]

Does this actually require philosophical deliberation to figure out that harming and killing are not right to do? I simply do not understand how anyone can honestly take these kind of arguments seriously. Why do people try to make morality so mystical?

[I responded]

“Does this actually require philosophical deliberation to figure out that harming and killing are not right to do?”

Exactly John. We seem to have it exactly backwards. Rather than requiring convincing and exhaustive evidence that can justify a moral position opposed to the harming of another human being, we should require this same kind of evidence from anyone who commits such acts, and most human cultures in the world have done so, and always have.

It’s only moral philosophers who demand proof that there is something inherently wrong with throwing acid in a little girls face before we dare to condemn it, and it’s only religion, or other dogmas, that can make such an act seem like a good idea in the first place. For a reasonable person it is enough that you are doing something to someone else, that you would not want done to yourself. What some moral philosophers don’t seem to understand is that it doesn’t go any deeper than this. This is in fact why it is immoral. Morality does not exist at the level of sub atomic particles, it exists only at the level of human culture, and it seems reasonable to me, that assuming harming others is immoral, until proven otherwise, will lead to more human flourishing, than assuming that killing each other is morally ambiguous, until proven otherwise, and of course, there is plenty of evidence for this in history and the world,  and there is also little doubt, that this is why humans and other social animals evolved empathy in the first place .

Not much, but it sums up my feelings pretty well. Let me know what you think.

(You can follow the rest of the discussion here if you want.)

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What is an atheist?

Posted on 26. May, 2013 by .

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Welcome to the new category of “Atheism FAQ”. Posted here will be responses to the nearly countless misconceptions people have about atheism, and what better place to start than the term itself.

Well, here’s how it breaks down.

1) All one has to do to be a theist is answer “yes” to the question “Do you believe in a supernatural god?”

2) If you answer anything other than yes to this question, then you are NOT a theist, or as all such people are called, an (A)theist. You are not part of the group of theists, and this is all the word atheist represents.

3) Agnostic is a term that many people seem to think represents a third category to the two we atheist agnosticalready mentioned, but this is incorrect. Saying “I don’t know” to the the question “Do you believe in a supernatural god?”, certainly doesn’t make you a theist, and as we’ve already seen, this is all that is required to make you an atheist. In fact the vast majority of people who describe themselves as atheists, don’t claim to know that god does not exist, they just don’t think the evidence available, supports the presumption that he does. Demanding that the word “agnostic” represent a third distinct category, is essentially the same thing as trying to redefine the word atheist, (and theist for that matter), to mean someone who is certain of their belief (or lack thereof), and although this is true about most theists, it is a complete misrepresentation of the vast majority of atheists.

Rather than a distinct category, “agnostic” is more like a sliding window on the binary category of theists and atheists, which represents those who will admit doubt in their position. Most atheists, are “agnostic atheists” and would not claim to have absolute certainty that god does not exist, because this would be almost as silly, as claiming absolute certainty that he does. On the other hand you will find very few “agnostic theists”, who will admit uncertainty as to their position, because of course, this would indicate a lack of faith, which is usually, and usefully, frowned on in most religions.

Well, that about sums it up. But if for some reason you want to read the old version of this post, read on. Maybe you will let me know which is better, and I will keep that one.

Either you believe in a supernatural god, thereby making you a theist, or you don’t, thereby making you an (a)theist , but there is no required level of conviction for either position. The vast majority of people who call themselves atheist would not say they are 100% sure that god does not exist, they simply believe the evidence available does not support the presumption that he does.

Most people who call themselves agnostics would not say that they believe there is a supernatural god, since doing so would make them a theist, and the simple refusal to proclaim this belief is enough to make them an atheist.

The terms gnostic and agnostic refer to knowledge, not belief, and can be used as qualifiers for atheist or theist, but not as replacements. For example an “agnostic atheist” would be someone who does not believe in a supernatural god, but either thinks that the actual knowledge of gods existence is unknowable, or claims not to be certain of his non-existence. This is the category that most self identified atheists fit into. On the other hand most theists are “gnostic theists” claiming absolute knowledge, not only of gods existence, but his thoughts and desires as well.

The fact is you will find very few “gnostic atheists”, those who claim to have absolute knowledge that god does not exist, because this would be as silly as claiming to have absolute knowledge that he does. Similarly, you will find very few “agnostic theists”, who will admit uncertainty as to their claims, because of course, this would indicate a lack of faith, which is usually, and usefully, frowned on in most religions.

I hope you find this information useful, and I’m not trying to tell you what to call yourself, but when you create a false dichotomy between atheism and agnosticism please understand you have become an ally  of the church in marginalizing all atheists as extreme and immovable in their disbelief, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Cheers!

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Pro Life Perplexity

Posted on 29. Apr, 2013 by .

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The hypocrisy of the “Pro Life” movement starts in the name, and doesn’t stop until it is dancing naked and playing  Jingle Bells on an air horn at the mall. In other words…. it becomes very hard to ignore.

So let’s begin with the name.

Pro Life? Does this mean everyone else is anti-life, pro death or simply ambivalent? The self righteous and disingenuous nature of the name, gives us an immediate sense that we might not be dealing with reasonable, rational people. No one is anti life simply because they are capable of making a distinction between a completely insensate group of cells, and a fully conscious and self aware woman with a lifetime of experiences. But on the contrary, to not be able to see this difference, is a failure of compassion on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. How can we understand this failure?

Only the idea of magical thinking can bridge this gap. It’s not so much that they believe the embryo is physically equivalent to a person, only metaphysically. They believe something magical, invisible and completely undetectable happens at the moment a sperm enters an egg. they will tell you an immortal  soul is created and even though they will not be able to explain to you why they believe this,  They will nonetheless be anxious to force you to believe it too, or at least submit to their authority on the issue. Such is faith, blind as ever.

Now, normally we could link this kind of stridency with something in the Bible, but not here. Even their own holy book leaves them hanging on this one.  No where in the Bible does it say, or even imply, that life begins at conception, and rather says that it begins at first breath, which is in fact what most Jew believe. Gen 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Nor does the Bible condemn abortion. In Exodus 21:22-25 it says the penalty for injury to a woman that causes her to miscarriage shall incur nothing more than a fine, but if the woman herself is seriously injured or dies,  then the punishment should be “life for life”. It seems God himself was not too concerned about unborn children.

So where does their stridency come from? Well I would argue it is a simply the age old desire of the church for raw material. Just look at the Catholic Church, even to this day and even in the face of AIDS, overpopulation and famine, it still has the temerity to condemn contraception? Couldn’t we hold off on making sure every possible new child was conceived, to save millions of already existing lives? Well we certainly could, if life was indeed  the goal, but it’s not, it’s simply to make sure the church has fresh new soldiers for God, and all the better if they can pretend that its in the name of compassion.

It’s not even that this is a conscious deception of the church,  but more simply a beneficial  meme, that could not help but be successful. in fact it’s hard to imagine a more beneficial  meme for a religion, than one which forces members to have as many children as possible, almost as good as the biological genes, which make procreation such a sought after past time.

But there is even more evidence that life is not their ultimate agenda, and it is easy to reveal. Just ask a fervent pro lifer what they think the punishment should be for a woman who has an abortion, and the doctor who performs it. In fact this is the critical element of the issue, and it just happens to be the source of the greatest amount of disagreement in the movement. This shouldn’t be a surprise,  considering they have no good answer to chose from that will not clearly expose the hypocrisy at the heart of their position.

They can either say that it should be considered a lesser crime than premeditated murder, in which case they are admitting that a a fetus is not equivalent to a child, and their hypocrisy is revealed,  or they can say that the punishment should equal that for premeditated murder, even if that punishment might be execution,  in which case it is not their hypocrisy that is revealed, but their insanity, and unfortunately for them, this is the only position that is logically consistent with their other claims, and if pushed to the wall, many will admit it as their own.

Now just ponder for a moment the full implications of  a person who could end the lives of  a woman and her doctor and ruin the lives of both of their families, all over a few cells no bigger than the head of a pin, and all in the name of being “Pro Life”. Not too surprising I guess considering these kind of  failures of compassion, and disconnects from reality are the hallmarks of blind faith, and have been for centuries.

I say it’s time to stop taking the opinions of such people seriously.

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Well you can’t prove god doesn’t exist.

Posted on 19. Mar, 2013 by .

2

When the religious are challenged to provide any objective evidence at all for their belief in god, it always ends the same way. After a few feeble tries, comes the final angry retort of, “Well, you can’t prove he doesn’t exist”. As if believing something on no evidence suddenly becomes a valid concept as long as no one can PROVE that it’s NOT true. Well nice try, but of course this is nonsense on it’s face. The fact that no one could disprove my claim that giant, undetectable green beetles are orbiting the Earth at this moment, and plan to attack at noon, pacific time, does not make the claim any more plausible.

Nothing in this life can be proven in absolute terms. No one goes around putting things into either a “proven” or an “unproven” box, because in fact, the proven box would remain perpetually empty. Even the best scientific theories, regardless of how completely and accurately they represent reality now, could be shown to be inaccurate somewhere down the road. The odds might be extraordinarily thin, but they are there none the less. This humility is at the heart of the scientific world view, as opposed to the arrogant certitude of the religious, who claim absolute knowledge of the answers to all of life’s most interesting questions.

Rather than proven or unproven, what we should be concerned with is what is reasonable or unreasonable, the same standards we use to imprison, and even execute, people for their crimes. It’s a simple concept. Reasonable things simply have on balance, more reasons to think they are true, than reasons to think they are false. Similarly, we call someone reasonable when they are willing and able to change their minds in the face of a severe imbalance of evidence, or unreasonable if they hold tight to a position even when faced with a mountain of evidence that they are wrong. Let’s see which of these is the religious position.

When religious people actually do respond to the question of what objective evidence they use to believe what they do, we usually get something like the following:

1. Well, the bible says it’s true
2. Well, it makes me feel better, so it must be true
3. My prayer was answered, when my dog got better. Yes I did take him to the vet, but nonetheless, I know it was the prayer that worked.
4. I can’t imagine how the universe was created, therefore it must have been poofed here by a super powerful magic man.

Now that might have sounded a bit harsh, but I really didn’t mean it that way. It’s simply an attempt at describing these answers in plain language, minus the fluff, the only purpose of which is to mask their inherent intellectual bankruptcy.

On the other hand, what objective reasons are there to think that god probably doesn’t exist? Well here are 20 items from a list that contained many more items, that I created some time ago.

1. The world is consistent with how it would be without a god, but requires countless machinations to explain why it would be the way it is with a perfect loving god
2. The postulation of god doesn’t help, because you then need to explain how god came to exist.
3. People are mostly born into their religion, which indicates they would have believed anything they were told as children.
4. God wants to communicate with us yet he just can’t seem to get the job done right, no matter how many times he tries.
5. The Bible itself is inconsistent with a perfect loving god, and contradicts itself frequently, and gives no information that was not known already when it was written
6. The overwhelming evidence for evolution, such as he fossil record, contradicts biblical creation.
7. The ultimate Carrot and stick of Heaven and Hell are about as obvious a gimmick of coercion as there could be, without actually telling people they are being conned. Believe me and live forever, or don’t and get eternal torture. Really? Not buying it?
8. Organic Chemicals are created continuously in nebulae light years from earth, and are easily created in the lab from elemental constituents and energy. (Building blocks of life are abundant, and easily created )
9. The postulation of supernatural explanations makes sense from a psychological perspective, in the vacuum of any real knowledge,which most of humanity has had to live until science. People want answers, and what answer is more obvious than a super powerful invisible sky daddy.
10. No amputee has ever regrown a limb through prayer, yet god supposedly intercedes in all manner of less and more severe circumstances. Prayer has been shown to be completely ineffective in scientific studies
11. Many mammals are capable of altruistic behavior and can show a form of compassion, and it is becoming clear that our “moral” behavior is evolutionary in nature. No god needed.
12. There have been millions of individual religions, with vastly different beliefs (Heavens Gate is just one interesting example…. Proof people can believe totally in any sort of nonsense)
13. With the decrease in belief and with the rise of science humans have progressed as never before. Either god does not exist, or he wants us to prosper the more that we deny his existence and use our own reason.
14. If success is due to a particular god how do we explain the success of nations that do not believe in that god, or no god at all. Countries like Japan and China. Or what of Europe’s many atheist nations such as Denmark and Sweden. They lead the world in the human development index AND in their number of atheists. Coincidence, or Is god rewarding them for not believing?
15. The idea of hell, To torture a person, in the worst way imaginable for all eternity is not consistent with a perfect loving god. It’s not even consistent with the most depraved human being imaginable.
16, The existence of evil and misery and viruses that can make babies bleed to death from every pore in their bodies. And I’m sorry but because a snake made eve eat an apple is not a sufficient reason.
17. Our Earth is but a tiny speck of dust in an immense universe. Why did god bother making all that other stuff. If we are so special, why such a tiny planet?
18. The simple silliness of it all. Jesus was sent by god to die for our sins, but Jesus is really god so he couldn’t die anyway, and the bread is the body of Christ and all animals in the world were on the ark and on and on and on. Not to mention the 72 virgins of Islam.
19. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that have killed millions of completely innocent men women and children. Not to mention asteroids that have killed entire species, and could do the same to us. What kind of perfect creation is this?
20. If Earth is a special creation just for us, why is most of it totally uninhabitable. 3/4 ocean, much of it desert, the equator hot and humid and insect infested year round, the poles freezing most of the year. It has always been a case of struggling just to survive.

Now notice these are all objective observations that indicate god probably doesn’t exist. I just ask for a few of the same from the religious. If they can’t provide them, then they must admit that they are using blind faith for their beliefs, and that just perhaps, the word unreasonable might best describe the basis of their entire world view. And how can that possibly be a good thing for the rest of us?

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